High Marks

While kitchen and bath dealers are generally quick to admit that consumers can find remodeling stressful, that doesn’t mean their clients don’t understand that the end result is well worth the effort. In fact, bath dealers and designers received high marks from consumers who’d recently remodeled their bathrooms, for everything from their knowledge and responsiveness to installation quality, ability to come in on budget and even price.

That’s according to a recent survey conducted by RenovationExperts.com for Kitchen & Bath Design News and sister magazines Qualified Remodeler and Residential Design & Build, which polled more than 600 consumers across the U.S. who had recently engaged in a major bathroom remodel.

When asked the primary reason they chose their dealer or designer, the number one reason was a referral or positive word of mouth (see Graph 1). This suggests that consumers believe they will achieve greater satisfaction working with someone they know ­– or at least know through one degree of separation.

Consumers’ other top reasons for selecting a dealer/designer included price, ability to coordinate the entire job, a willingness to work within the consumer’s budget, the ability to personalize a project with unique design ideas, the best overall design ideas for the project and a good rapport with the designer.

Interestingly, products carried were far less important than a level of trust in the designer through either a referral or a good rapport developed with the dealer/designer during the sales process. In fact, only 2.6% of consumers surveyed said that brands carried was their primary reason for choosing a designer, which suggests that consumers rely heavily on their dealer/designer to guide them through making the best product choices to meet their individual needs.

Good Relations
That trust seems to be well founded, if the survey results are any indication. In fact, of those surveyed, nearly three quarters (72.8%) said they would recommend their dealer/designer to friends and family (see Graph 2).

This is true despite the fact that more than half (55%) said they experienced unanticipated problems during their remodel (see Graph 3). This suggests that consumers are becoming more savvy to the design and remodeling process, and that dealers and designers are doing a better job helping to manage consumers’ expectations about how the process unfolds and helping them to get a more realistic picture of what to expect during the project – all of which equals greater satisfaction.

So, what kind of issues do consumers have with their projects? According to surveyed consumers, unanticipated delays were the most frequently cited problem, mentioned by 31%, while conflicts with the designer or installer were cited by another 18%. Some 17.7% of respondents mentioned unanticipated costs as a problem, while 9.4% were disturbed by what they perceived as “undue disruption of home life.” Another 6.5% mentioned unexpected product shortcomings, while 17.4% experienced other problems (see Graph 4).

But while problems may have occurred during the consumer respondents’ bath remodels, the vast majority remained well pleased with their dealer/designer. In fact, more than three quarters rated their dealer or designer’s responsiveness as “good” or “excellent,” with 12.7% rating it as “fair” and only 11.6% seeing it as “poor” (see Graph 5).

Installers – often cited by the media as a major source of consumer stress during the remodeling process ­– also received good marks, with 36.2% of survey respondents rating the quality and supervision of installation as “excellent,” 37.5% rating it as “good,” 12.8% giving it “fair” marks, and 13.5% giving it a “poor” rating (see Graph 6).

Dealers and designers also scored high marks for providing product information and explanation of the work to be done, with 74.1% scoring their design professional as “excellent” or “good” in this category, 15.5% rating their dealer/designer as “fair,” and only 10.4% giving this a “poor” rating.

As far as money matters were concerned, consumers seemed to be on the same page with their dealer/designer, with nearly 80% rating their design professional as either “good” or “excellent” with regard to price and financing arrangements – something that in previous years was often seen as a stumbling block for bath dealers/designers.

Along the same lines, dealers and designers also received stellar marks for coming in on budget, with more than three quarters of those surveyed saying their dealer did an excellent or good job at this. By contrast, less than 10% (8.9%) rated their dealer as “poor” in this category.

The one area where bath dealers and designers seemed to fall short was in post-job follow through, where a whopping 21.3% of consumers rated their dealer/designer as “poor” (see Graph 7). Unfortunately, this is the area that often leaves the most lasting impression on consumers, as it’s their final contact with their bathroom professional, and therefore is often what’s most remembered. Although 63.8% of those surveyed did score their bath dealer/designer as “excellent” or “good” in this area, the fact that more than a third (36.2%) gave their dealer/designer “fair” or “poor” ratings in this suggests that our industry needs to look more seriously at follow through as an area for improvement. This is especially important for bath dealers/designers to look at since this may directly drive future referrals, or lack thereof.

Likewise, there was room for improvement in the area of “observing time schedules and other commitments,” with more than a third of all consumer respondents (34.1%) rating their dealer/designer as either “poor” or “fair” in this area.

Design Choices
The survey also looked at some overall bath trends among consumers. For instance, in terms of bath styles, traditional designs were most popular, chosen by 43% of consumers surveyed – no huge surprise to anyone. However, contemporary styles were also quite popular. In fact, contemporary styling was chosen by 32.1% of those surveyed, while 11.5% favored transitional styling, and 13.4% chose some other style (see Graph 8).

As for the most commonly chosen bath changes or additions, vanities were the top choice, noted by 78% of consumers surveyed (see Graph 9), closely followed by shower systems (76.8%) and lighting upgrades (76.8%), a new toilet (73.4%), a new tub, whirlpool or air-jet tub (47.1%) and storage (33.7%). A smaller percentage of consumers chose to upgrade their flooring (7.4%) or install an audio system (4.5%).

Consumers also shared what product they felt made their bathrooms unique or distinctive, with the most popular choice being the shower system, garnering 30.3% of respondents. This was closely followed by the countertop or vanity, which was cited by 26.6% of respondents. Other top choices included a whirlpool or jetted tub (11.1% of respondents), his-and-hers sinks or grooming stations (8.9% of respondents), a striking tub design (7.9% of respondents), unusual storage options, armoires or furniture pieces (7.6% of respondents), and unusual lighting (chromatherapy, skylight, etc., cited by 6.8% of respondents).

When asked what products they had not installed but wish they had, a floor warming system was the top choice, noted by 22.1% of respondents (see Graph 10). The next most frequently cited product was an armoire or unusual storage piece, mentioned by 13% of respondents, while 12.7% wished they’d included a whirlpool or jetted tub. Another 9.7% said they would have liked to have added a towel warmer, while 9.4% said they wish they’d added a new vanity or countertop. Some 8.4% said if they could do it again, they’d install audio or video equipment, and 8.1% said they would have included more lighting or a skylight in their baths.

Other key findings of the survey include the following:

- Of those who completed a bath remodel, 73.4% remodeled their master bathroom, 5.9% remodeled a powder room and 18.7% remodeled another bathroom in the home.

- Some 41.6% of consumers who installed jetted tubs selected one with both air and water jets, while 39.6% chose water jets only and 18.8% selected air jets only.

- The primary countertop choices among consumers surveyed were solid surface (25.6%), marble (20.3%), granite (19.7%), laminate (14%), engineered stone/quartz (12.4%), limestone or other natural stone (6.3%) and glass (1.7%).

- The most popular bath finishes for faucets, fittings and accessories among those surveyed included chrome (35.8%), brushed nickel (22%), polished or satin nickel (17.3%), stainless steel (7.7%), antique brass (6%), brass (5.7%) and “other” (5.5%). KBDN